Buzz Aldrin

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 July, 2009, 12:00am

COMMUNION ON THE MOON At the time [of Apollo 11's landing on the moon, on July 20, 1969], our success needed an individual acknowledgement and a symbolic observation - I thought it was reasonably done by the individual act of [Holy] Communion. I felt that an appreciation for a higher power - for strength outside of myself [in determining] the direction I should follow - was appropriate. Over a period of about 30 years, I've moved on to become much more general and all-encompassing than the narrow organisation that partakes of Communion. My spirituality is much broader now towards the order and perfection of a universe that gives us the freedom to improve our status. If we were all in great perfection, there wouldn't be much of a challenge for life.

AIR TIME I'm proud of the progression of my life over the years; there are many remembrances. There are pictures of everything that happened - of the airplanes I've flown [Aldrin served as a jet fighter pilot during the Korean war, when he flew 66 combat missions in F-86 Sabres. Later he flew F-100 Super Sabres as a flight commander stationed in Germany] and of the Saturn rocket [the Apollo mission launch vehicle].

I decided that the watch I wore on the surface of the moon [an Omega Speedmaster Professional] needed to be displayed on loan at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington. So, I had it sent over to Houston to be shipped to Washington. And it never arrived. [To this day, the whereabouts of the first watch on the moon - Neil Armstrong was not wearing his - remains unknown.]

MY FINAL FRONTIER I have just been diving in the British Virgin Islands. I was working with a scientist who is examining the coral reefs and looking for deposits that could have come from spores and other microbial creatures transported from the desert by wind - and which are dangerous to the living coral. Nature is pretty resilient but it's always undergoing changes; to resist any change is pitting human resources against the natural world. We need to adjust to those changing conditions rather than keep [our habits] exactly the same.

Scuba diving has given me a great appreciation of the natural boundary between land and ocean. The ocean was an area of nature that I hadn't given much thought to. There are similarities in the protective equipment that a human needs to be able to survive underneath the ocean and above the atmosphere. You have to bring your own life support.

UP, UP AND AWAY I've never appreciated the very short-term 'up and down' of suborbital [less than one full rotation around earth outside its atmosphere] trajectories [which are being developed with an eye towards tourism and intercontinental travel]. I wouldn't have bet a whole lot on it 10 or 15 years ago but it does look like [suborbital flight] might have some future to it. I think it is an innovative way of maintaining an interest in the progression of space technology. I've heard what [Richard Branson, president of Virgin Galactic] and his people have said but I think to extend the distance travelled, you'd need to increase velocity quite a bit, and that increases the G-force on re-entry. That is going to prove to be quite an impediment. You'd have to attain almost orbital speed for any appreciable distances over the surface of the earth.

When I look at the attention being paid to space elevators [a structure that reaches from the surface of the earth to geostationary orbit], I see many disadvantages. All objects in space cross the equator twice in orbit, going north, then going south. With a space elevator, sooner or later, there would be collisions, and the more objects there are in space, the more threatening impact you will have.

LOOKING BACK ... AND FORWARD Magnificent Desolation [an autobiography published in June] significantly extends the material covered in Return to Earth, which was written in 1973. I've gone through further changes in my life and increased my contributions. I've communicated more and more with people about the experiences I've had in the past and what we could be doing in the future. I've been working with people to come up with potential solutions to some [space technology challenges], such as how best we can evolve from our present rocket launch system by gradually increasing the amount of reusable items. By studying the post-launch condition of [equipment], we learn more about its reliability. It's not just about cost but about increasing overall performance.

POP CULTURE Whenever something comes along that I feel I can contribute a little bit to, I try my best [Aldrin made a guest appearance on The Simpsons and lent his name to Toy Story character Buzz Lightyear]. I felt the 3D animated movie Fly Me to the Moon warranted my participation at the tail end. I think it was a good film and instructive, using the medium of computer animation, which has a mobility that allows youngsters to begin to contemplate, for example, how a fly might operate in zero gravity.

It's an interesting, fascinating life I have. I've always thought - once you get through the process of getting up every day, you might as well stay up and get ahead of the world a little bit. I'm glad I don't just sit around doing nothing, or play golf - that doesn't seem to be all that productive, in my estimation.